Samir Chopra August 7, 2009

The India-Australia relationship is a special one

On the cricketing field, it has provided some of the best cricket of recent years
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I'd stand accused (and rightly so) of being an utterly naive fool were I to say that I had not anticipated some of the comments section flaming that followed on the heels of my post about Ricky Ponting. But that doesn't make it any less depressing. I'm not counting the posts here that simply criticized Ponting as a captain, batsman or whatever; I mean the posts that were pointedly personal or generalized remarks about the respective countries' teams, players and fans. The India-Australia bickerfest shows no sign of abating, and while it might provide the occasional entertaining moment, it is by and large, a very unedifying business.

Now, I have gotten into net spats myself. I have not followed the simple policy of thinking long and hard about whether I really want to post the angry retort that I've just typed up. I'm a flame war veteran, and will be the first to acknowledge that I've exploited the anonymity the Internet affords when it comes to online disagreements. But in the particular context of the India-Australia rivalry, there is a certain line I don't cross (or at least, I hope I haven't), and the reason for that is quite simple.

I have Australian friends. Most of whom are passionate cricket fans. Very knowledgeable ones. And I love discussing cricket with them. They know their cricketing history, they are very appreciative of Indian cricketers. I've lived in Australia for two years and played cricket with Australians and loved every single minute of it. This winter (the southern summer) I will travel to Sydney again and hopefully play a game again with my old team.

In these circumstances, there is no way I can bring myself to negatively generalize about the country, its cricket teams, fans or the cricketing culture. If I've ever done it in the heat of the moment, I've regretted it deeply.

So in that spirit, I'd like to make a simple suggestion as the fourth Ashes Test gets underway. I might be accused of being cheesy but I'll take that risk.

Find a way to watch a game with a fan from the Other Side. This won't be easy for Indians in India, but if you're a member of the Great Diaspora, try and find an Aussie expat and a venue for cricket watching. If you're an Aussie, you won't have a hard time finding an Indian cricket fan in your town. Find a pub that shows the game, buy a few rounds of pots, middies or schooners (or whatever the standard measure happens to be in your state) of beer, and watch a game of cricket together.

It's hard to be rude and offensive when you have to do it in person. It's easier to listen when the other person is talking face to face to you. And it's harder to generalize when there is a concrete counterexample to your generalization sitting in front of you.

The India-Australia relationship in cricket is a special one. On the cricketing field, it has provided some of the best cricket of recent years. Indian fans know their history and their game. So do the Aussies. This constant puerile flaming online does no one any credit. The rivalry is intense sure, and I've even joked about it here, but really, does everything need to get so personal?

And besides, the Ashes are on, and there is a Common Enemy to confront! If that doesn't bring us together, what can?

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mandar on August 18, 2009, 5:55 GMT

    Wishful thinking, Mr. Chopra.

  • Venkat on August 11, 2009, 6:54 GMT

    Lets be honest Samir, there is nothing special about the India Australia relationship. On a cricket pitch or outside. We dont have any common traditions,culture, food etc etc. The relationship over the years has at best been strained. Symonds racial slur, the attacks on Indian students(racial or otherwise) have all left indelible marks on the psyche of both Indians and Australians. I am not getting into who is right and wrong in this debate. All I am trying to convey is there is no way that the relationship is going to get better in the foreseeable future.We ll have to live with it.

  • MRP on August 10, 2009, 15:23 GMT

    Right Mr. Chopra. And the seas shall part, the clouds as well, and the sun shall shine down upon the earth forvever and ever more. I understand, actually I don't, the absolut garbage pragmatasim you would like to bring to the sport. Sports as supposed to be filled with intense rivalry, maybe even bordering on obsession. The Indy-Aussie rivalry is one of those that infuses cricket with some much needed life, passion, and excitement. Adrenaline rush, if you will. The fans of both countries are a huge part of this. And I for one, who understands the game just as well, if not better, than the likes of cricinfo blog writers, such as yourself, refuse to let down my guard against any opoosition, especially the likes of Australia and Ponting, who have done much to bring a brand of nasty, brutish, uncivilized, uncouth, rude, brash cricket to the annals of the international game. Finally, yes finally, there is an international side, India, that refuses to buckle down in the face of such oppositn

  • Matt on August 10, 2009, 5:22 GMT

    A great post and you bring up a good point - as an Australian, some of the best cricket I have watched has been with Indian supporters - and in person I have always found them unfailingly polite, thoughtful and informed - the most knowledgeable cricket fans in the world. But to revive the Ponting controversy, one thing I find confusing is that Ponting is perceived to be so largely responsible for Australia's much remarked upon (and in my view far less evident) bad sportsmanship on the cricket field. Apart from claiming a catch that replays drew into question (a sin, if it is a sin and not an inadvertent error, which many other cricketers have committed) what has he done wrong? I am still angry at Peter Roebuck for his piece after the Sydney test which intemperately fanned the flames of India-Australian rivalry and cast Ponting as the chief aggressor when he was really only guilty of failing to intervene as his more boorish players stepped over the line.

  • Si on August 9, 2009, 11:31 GMT

    Great articles Samir. One thing I find common to both Aus and Indian supporters is the passion which translates to the love and hate of great opposition players. I feel it defines the fighting spirit of both countries but also clouds and distorts perspective.

    For an Aussie it appears that India loves to pontificate on how its sees cricket should be played yet laud when their players show the same spirit, determination and perseverence as Aus.

    All players are human and are not gods. Who has all of these attributes required to be acceptable to all: . great strategic planning, implementation and its adaption to suit conditions . superb bowler or batsmen . superb fielder . excellent man management skills . excellent motivator with inspiring leadership skills . family man . humble, respectful and not too proud for any activity . diplomat . engaging conversationalist and wonderful wit . well mannered and well groomed yet not vain . no sordid habits or associates

    Pick 5. Vive le cricket!

  • faisal on August 8, 2009, 5:09 GMT

    Raj,I admire your belligerence,a true fan should be like this,supporting his own,blindly.Whoever say there is something wrong with that may be a good disciple of the game but a bad one as a sectarian.I am a die-hard fan of aussies(though I am from Bangladesh).My prediliction for them started with Mark Waugh(as it was started with roberto baggio in football for italy).I feel devastated when they are defeated,specially in a test match,but fortunately that was very rare in the past decade or so(not in your case).I understand the frustration you are expressing beneath your blue-blooded hyperbole.Of course,you have IPL,richest cricket board but "4 world cups","16 wins in a row" and "the greatest team ever" will always be a daydream to you.

  • Ashtung on August 7, 2009, 17:53 GMT

    Huh.. common enemy?? I thought the Aussies were the common enemies to the rest of the cricketing world...

  • Satadru Sen on August 7, 2009, 14:03 GMT

    Eloquent and timely. The turn the India-Australia relationship has taken lately is really quite bizarre. It's been a perfect storm of random factors: Greg Chappell's stint as Indian coach, Waugh's culture of "mental disintegration," Monkeygate I and II, the growing tolerance for boors like Symonds, Hayden, Ponting, Bhajji, Sreesanth and Gambhir in the international game, the rise of the Net and its population of hyper-patriotic morons (especially among Indians, but among Australians also), the recent attacks on Indians in Australia, and so on. We need each other, people. The real enemy is China, and they don't play cricket.

  • Supratik on August 7, 2009, 13:00 GMT

    I have lived in Australia my entire adolescent life and all that while the only genuine contests I have witnessed in Australia is when India toured in 2003-04 and 2007-08. I found myself filled unbridled joy when Sourav Ganguly scored that century in 2003 and unparallelled rage when Harbhajan Singh was banned for racial abuse in 2008. But deep down inside I have thoroughly enjoyed the competitiveness of the contests with neither side willing to give an inch. I find most things rather unflattering about Aussie cricket (the way they act as moral guardians of the game, sledging, parts of their gamesmanship) but the day an Australian side 'goes soft', stops hurting in defeat and stops being its own self in a game against India I will walk away very disappointed.

  • Aviral on August 7, 2009, 11:19 GMT

    An excellent post indeed. The comments in the last post were all about Ponting vs Tendulkar/Lara and they did give a wrong opinion about cricket fans in India. All these years that I have followed cricket, I have always enjoyed batting of the likes of Mark Waugh and Damien Martyn who carried bats like wands, the bowling of Shane Warne and Brett Lee.The likes of Gilchrist and Steve Waugh have a huge fan base in India which is probably second only to that in Australia. Ponting, I am afraid does not command as much respect as his counterparts and that has got nothing to do with his chasing records of Sachin Tendulkar. Indian fans always both loved and adored Brian Lara who was the only threat to Tendulkar's dominance in world cricket for almost a decade and a half.Ponting is a great batsman, hands down. Nobody can take that away from him. Ponting has won more matches than Tendulkar or Lara but he failed to win one important thing, HEARTS....

  • Mandar on August 18, 2009, 5:55 GMT

    Wishful thinking, Mr. Chopra.

  • Venkat on August 11, 2009, 6:54 GMT

    Lets be honest Samir, there is nothing special about the India Australia relationship. On a cricket pitch or outside. We dont have any common traditions,culture, food etc etc. The relationship over the years has at best been strained. Symonds racial slur, the attacks on Indian students(racial or otherwise) have all left indelible marks on the psyche of both Indians and Australians. I am not getting into who is right and wrong in this debate. All I am trying to convey is there is no way that the relationship is going to get better in the foreseeable future.We ll have to live with it.

  • MRP on August 10, 2009, 15:23 GMT

    Right Mr. Chopra. And the seas shall part, the clouds as well, and the sun shall shine down upon the earth forvever and ever more. I understand, actually I don't, the absolut garbage pragmatasim you would like to bring to the sport. Sports as supposed to be filled with intense rivalry, maybe even bordering on obsession. The Indy-Aussie rivalry is one of those that infuses cricket with some much needed life, passion, and excitement. Adrenaline rush, if you will. The fans of both countries are a huge part of this. And I for one, who understands the game just as well, if not better, than the likes of cricinfo blog writers, such as yourself, refuse to let down my guard against any opoosition, especially the likes of Australia and Ponting, who have done much to bring a brand of nasty, brutish, uncivilized, uncouth, rude, brash cricket to the annals of the international game. Finally, yes finally, there is an international side, India, that refuses to buckle down in the face of such oppositn

  • Matt on August 10, 2009, 5:22 GMT

    A great post and you bring up a good point - as an Australian, some of the best cricket I have watched has been with Indian supporters - and in person I have always found them unfailingly polite, thoughtful and informed - the most knowledgeable cricket fans in the world. But to revive the Ponting controversy, one thing I find confusing is that Ponting is perceived to be so largely responsible for Australia's much remarked upon (and in my view far less evident) bad sportsmanship on the cricket field. Apart from claiming a catch that replays drew into question (a sin, if it is a sin and not an inadvertent error, which many other cricketers have committed) what has he done wrong? I am still angry at Peter Roebuck for his piece after the Sydney test which intemperately fanned the flames of India-Australian rivalry and cast Ponting as the chief aggressor when he was really only guilty of failing to intervene as his more boorish players stepped over the line.

  • Si on August 9, 2009, 11:31 GMT

    Great articles Samir. One thing I find common to both Aus and Indian supporters is the passion which translates to the love and hate of great opposition players. I feel it defines the fighting spirit of both countries but also clouds and distorts perspective.

    For an Aussie it appears that India loves to pontificate on how its sees cricket should be played yet laud when their players show the same spirit, determination and perseverence as Aus.

    All players are human and are not gods. Who has all of these attributes required to be acceptable to all: . great strategic planning, implementation and its adaption to suit conditions . superb bowler or batsmen . superb fielder . excellent man management skills . excellent motivator with inspiring leadership skills . family man . humble, respectful and not too proud for any activity . diplomat . engaging conversationalist and wonderful wit . well mannered and well groomed yet not vain . no sordid habits or associates

    Pick 5. Vive le cricket!

  • faisal on August 8, 2009, 5:09 GMT

    Raj,I admire your belligerence,a true fan should be like this,supporting his own,blindly.Whoever say there is something wrong with that may be a good disciple of the game but a bad one as a sectarian.I am a die-hard fan of aussies(though I am from Bangladesh).My prediliction for them started with Mark Waugh(as it was started with roberto baggio in football for italy).I feel devastated when they are defeated,specially in a test match,but fortunately that was very rare in the past decade or so(not in your case).I understand the frustration you are expressing beneath your blue-blooded hyperbole.Of course,you have IPL,richest cricket board but "4 world cups","16 wins in a row" and "the greatest team ever" will always be a daydream to you.

  • Ashtung on August 7, 2009, 17:53 GMT

    Huh.. common enemy?? I thought the Aussies were the common enemies to the rest of the cricketing world...

  • Satadru Sen on August 7, 2009, 14:03 GMT

    Eloquent and timely. The turn the India-Australia relationship has taken lately is really quite bizarre. It's been a perfect storm of random factors: Greg Chappell's stint as Indian coach, Waugh's culture of "mental disintegration," Monkeygate I and II, the growing tolerance for boors like Symonds, Hayden, Ponting, Bhajji, Sreesanth and Gambhir in the international game, the rise of the Net and its population of hyper-patriotic morons (especially among Indians, but among Australians also), the recent attacks on Indians in Australia, and so on. We need each other, people. The real enemy is China, and they don't play cricket.

  • Supratik on August 7, 2009, 13:00 GMT

    I have lived in Australia my entire adolescent life and all that while the only genuine contests I have witnessed in Australia is when India toured in 2003-04 and 2007-08. I found myself filled unbridled joy when Sourav Ganguly scored that century in 2003 and unparallelled rage when Harbhajan Singh was banned for racial abuse in 2008. But deep down inside I have thoroughly enjoyed the competitiveness of the contests with neither side willing to give an inch. I find most things rather unflattering about Aussie cricket (the way they act as moral guardians of the game, sledging, parts of their gamesmanship) but the day an Australian side 'goes soft', stops hurting in defeat and stops being its own self in a game against India I will walk away very disappointed.

  • Aviral on August 7, 2009, 11:19 GMT

    An excellent post indeed. The comments in the last post were all about Ponting vs Tendulkar/Lara and they did give a wrong opinion about cricket fans in India. All these years that I have followed cricket, I have always enjoyed batting of the likes of Mark Waugh and Damien Martyn who carried bats like wands, the bowling of Shane Warne and Brett Lee.The likes of Gilchrist and Steve Waugh have a huge fan base in India which is probably second only to that in Australia. Ponting, I am afraid does not command as much respect as his counterparts and that has got nothing to do with his chasing records of Sachin Tendulkar. Indian fans always both loved and adored Brian Lara who was the only threat to Tendulkar's dominance in world cricket for almost a decade and a half.Ponting is a great batsman, hands down. Nobody can take that away from him. Ponting has won more matches than Tendulkar or Lara but he failed to win one important thing, HEARTS....

  • raj on August 7, 2009, 11:17 GMT

    As a true-blue Indian this post makes me sick! We are the best in the world...we dominate the ICC...we can take drugs and WADA cant do a thing about it...we bully other nations into cricket obscurity (ala Pakistan and Bangladesh)...we have cheapened cricket with the IPL...we racially abuse other players (ala Symonds) and get away with it...and the aussies cant take it that we have knocked them off their mantle!

    Get with the programme Samir...we rule the cricketing world...and if anyone trys to take that from us we will destroy cricket (already half-done with the IPL atrocity)!

  • vas on August 7, 2009, 8:58 GMT

    Great post Samir.

    I think in the end this animosity is based on how eager we are to hold onto past wrongs. While the Indians are right aggrieved about events in Sydney not long ago, are we then entitled to bring up the years of questionable umpiring in the 80s and 90s? Does that really solve the issue, or merely spark more heated debate about it.

  • Gizza on August 7, 2009, 8:49 GMT

    As an person living in Australia of Indian origin (Indian-Aussie) I agree with you 100% Samir.

    With all due respect to England, they don't care about cricket if its non-Test (which is fair enough) but also if the opposition is not Australia (even a strong team like South Africa doesn't entertain them). Pakistan is a similar mould, except you can replace Australia with India (Note: India also only used to care about winning against Pakistan but they have moved on). While cricket is the defacto national sport in SL and Bangladesh, they are relatively newcomers in Tests and haven't developed any rivalries. NZ are more fanatic about Rugby and S. Africa also follow other sports. The Windies had a strong passion for the game but a corrupt board and lack of current talent has hurt them.

    This leaves India and Australia as the only 2 competitive teams who are united in their love fo cricket (Aus' Football codes divide their states). No wonder the best cricket in 21th c. has been between them.

  • angshuman on August 7, 2009, 8:47 GMT

    I read your previous post on how great Ponting is. And I agree with that. I love the way he plays the horizontal bat shots and also how he steps out to spinners. But, I failed to understand the statement about Indian fans hating Ponting. By the definition of an Indian cricket fan we are supposed to like our team and support all our players and should not get too awed by the opposition. But, all Indian cricket fans are cricket fans too and in that sense we like australian cricket and cricketers. You should see how much respect there is for Gilchrist when he played for Deccan. And also for Lee or Hayden. Plus our relationship with Steve Waugh is well documented. From where exactly did you get the idea that Indian fans do not like Australia and Australian cricket? Please, don't make generalized statements about indian cricket fans. But again, I think that is the only way you get comments :).

  • Yogesh on August 7, 2009, 8:33 GMT

    Good effort to douse the flame.... But I hope it doesn't end up stoking the flame again.. The key word being "personal" ? Why does everything needs to get personal ?

  • RedHanded97 on August 7, 2009, 8:22 GMT

    Some of my best cricket moments were playing in a mixed Indian/Pakistani Team in USA as the only Aussie. A lot of Aussies love Indian culture (and curries) and as a rule I just love good cricket no matter what country plays it. That doesn't mean I don't support my own country but I appreciate skill and character.

  • Michael Hunt on August 7, 2009, 7:35 GMT

    Let's not get ahead of ourselves, first let's make sure Indian players haven't "enhanced" themselves in any artificial way before they're allowed to play.

  • prakash on August 7, 2009, 7:14 GMT

    uff uff uff... As the Credits are rolling..I. Have tears in my eyes.....What a Sentimental piece Samir.. DId you see the latest Saif Flick.. You should also see the last 10 years matches between these countries.. May be you will write a War Flick on Cricinfo.. Until then let the tears overflow.. Tcchh TCchhh

  • Brendan Layton on August 7, 2009, 6:45 GMT

    Well said Samir. I hope it does stop.

    On an aside note, what club do you and you friends play for and would you be able to make a guest appearance for my team perhaps?

  • faisal on August 7, 2009, 6:41 GMT

    Standing at a neutral point of not being an aussie or indian I can say one thing,that the likes of ponting or sachin not only makes their team look great but also cricket.And though cricket is not in the "most attacking" genre of all sports but a fierce competition between two teams is always treat for eyes.Beacuse this is all that a true fan of the sports can ask for.Thi nk about a match between the team for whom you have strong repository of frenzy and the one that you fear as they are no less better.What do you like more,a hard faught nail-bitting victory or a one-sided unattractive one of your team.

  • Looch on August 7, 2009, 6:36 GMT

    Samir I would just like to say that read this article filled me with joy! When it gets right down to it we are all cricket lovers regardless of the nation we support and this should always bring us together. Good luck to the Indian Test team in getting the Number 1 in the Test rankings but I think the Saffers are going to be hard to beat, as for Australia we will be in the doldrums for a little while but we will be back! Long live Cricket!

  • Mark Boustridge on August 7, 2009, 6:26 GMT

    I have my fingers crossed for your wish to come true Mr Chopra - I really do. Though I feel the hostilities are a little too entrenched to be swept aside so easily. There are no supporters so knowledgeable as indians (in my experience). It'd be nice to share a laugh and a beer with 'the other side' occasionally. Oh, and for the record - my 3 favourite cricketers of the modern era are 1/Tendulkar. 2=/Lara, Warne and Ponting

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  • Mark Boustridge on August 7, 2009, 6:26 GMT

    I have my fingers crossed for your wish to come true Mr Chopra - I really do. Though I feel the hostilities are a little too entrenched to be swept aside so easily. There are no supporters so knowledgeable as indians (in my experience). It'd be nice to share a laugh and a beer with 'the other side' occasionally. Oh, and for the record - my 3 favourite cricketers of the modern era are 1/Tendulkar. 2=/Lara, Warne and Ponting

  • Looch on August 7, 2009, 6:36 GMT

    Samir I would just like to say that read this article filled me with joy! When it gets right down to it we are all cricket lovers regardless of the nation we support and this should always bring us together. Good luck to the Indian Test team in getting the Number 1 in the Test rankings but I think the Saffers are going to be hard to beat, as for Australia we will be in the doldrums for a little while but we will be back! Long live Cricket!

  • faisal on August 7, 2009, 6:41 GMT

    Standing at a neutral point of not being an aussie or indian I can say one thing,that the likes of ponting or sachin not only makes their team look great but also cricket.And though cricket is not in the "most attacking" genre of all sports but a fierce competition between two teams is always treat for eyes.Beacuse this is all that a true fan of the sports can ask for.Thi nk about a match between the team for whom you have strong repository of frenzy and the one that you fear as they are no less better.What do you like more,a hard faught nail-bitting victory or a one-sided unattractive one of your team.

  • Brendan Layton on August 7, 2009, 6:45 GMT

    Well said Samir. I hope it does stop.

    On an aside note, what club do you and you friends play for and would you be able to make a guest appearance for my team perhaps?

  • prakash on August 7, 2009, 7:14 GMT

    uff uff uff... As the Credits are rolling..I. Have tears in my eyes.....What a Sentimental piece Samir.. DId you see the latest Saif Flick.. You should also see the last 10 years matches between these countries.. May be you will write a War Flick on Cricinfo.. Until then let the tears overflow.. Tcchh TCchhh

  • Michael Hunt on August 7, 2009, 7:35 GMT

    Let's not get ahead of ourselves, first let's make sure Indian players haven't "enhanced" themselves in any artificial way before they're allowed to play.

  • RedHanded97 on August 7, 2009, 8:22 GMT

    Some of my best cricket moments were playing in a mixed Indian/Pakistani Team in USA as the only Aussie. A lot of Aussies love Indian culture (and curries) and as a rule I just love good cricket no matter what country plays it. That doesn't mean I don't support my own country but I appreciate skill and character.

  • Yogesh on August 7, 2009, 8:33 GMT

    Good effort to douse the flame.... But I hope it doesn't end up stoking the flame again.. The key word being "personal" ? Why does everything needs to get personal ?

  • angshuman on August 7, 2009, 8:47 GMT

    I read your previous post on how great Ponting is. And I agree with that. I love the way he plays the horizontal bat shots and also how he steps out to spinners. But, I failed to understand the statement about Indian fans hating Ponting. By the definition of an Indian cricket fan we are supposed to like our team and support all our players and should not get too awed by the opposition. But, all Indian cricket fans are cricket fans too and in that sense we like australian cricket and cricketers. You should see how much respect there is for Gilchrist when he played for Deccan. And also for Lee or Hayden. Plus our relationship with Steve Waugh is well documented. From where exactly did you get the idea that Indian fans do not like Australia and Australian cricket? Please, don't make generalized statements about indian cricket fans. But again, I think that is the only way you get comments :).

  • Gizza on August 7, 2009, 8:49 GMT

    As an person living in Australia of Indian origin (Indian-Aussie) I agree with you 100% Samir.

    With all due respect to England, they don't care about cricket if its non-Test (which is fair enough) but also if the opposition is not Australia (even a strong team like South Africa doesn't entertain them). Pakistan is a similar mould, except you can replace Australia with India (Note: India also only used to care about winning against Pakistan but they have moved on). While cricket is the defacto national sport in SL and Bangladesh, they are relatively newcomers in Tests and haven't developed any rivalries. NZ are more fanatic about Rugby and S. Africa also follow other sports. The Windies had a strong passion for the game but a corrupt board and lack of current talent has hurt them.

    This leaves India and Australia as the only 2 competitive teams who are united in their love fo cricket (Aus' Football codes divide their states). No wonder the best cricket in 21th c. has been between them.